Apply for paternity

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Proving paternity in court is done 2 different ways depending on who is applying.

Paternity Order

If you’re a mother you ask the court to make a Paternity Order to say a man is your child’s father. This application can also sometimes be made by:

  • the person who has day-to-day care of the child (if the mother is aged under 16)
  • a social worker (if the mother agrees).

An application can be made if:

  • the mother lives in New Zealand
  • the father lives in New Zealand
  • the mother has died and the child lives in New Zealand.

If the mother has died, abandoned the child or can’t make the application herself, an application can be made by:

  • a parent of the mother
  • a guardian of the child
  • a social worker
  • another person with the court’s permission.

Time limits on applying for a Paternity Order

You need to apply for a Paternity Order before the child is 6 years old, unless the man believed to be the father:

  • has said he is the father previously or
  • has paid maintenance or has lived with the mother in the 2 years before you apply.

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Declaration of Paternity (or non-paternity)

The mother and some other people can apply for a Declaration of Paternity (or non-paternity). They are:

  • a man who believes he is a child’s father
  • a man who believes there has been a mistake and he is not the father of a child
  • a woman who believes a particular man is the father of her child
  • a person (with a proper interest) who wants to prove a particular man is or is not the father of the child.

No time limit to apply for a Declaration of Paternity

There is no time limit for applying for a Declaration of Paternity.

The application can be made even if the child, or the man believed to be (or not to be) the father, has died.

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Forms you’ll need to apply for a Paternity Order or a Declaration of Paternity

If you need help to fill in the forms you can call us or visit your local court.

Find out more about affidavits and statutory declarations

  1. Fill in 1 of these forms:
    Application for Paternity Order – FP15 [PDF, 57 KB]
    or
    Application for declaration of paternity – FP15A [PDF, 63 KB]
  2. You’ll also need to fill in these 2 forms:
    Information sheet to accompany applications – G7 [PDF, 44 KB]
    General affidavit [PDF, 38 KB]
  3. File your application.
    Find out more about how to file documents

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What happens after you apply

The court can recommend a paternity test to help it decide whether a man is the child’s father. These tests are also known as parentage tests. There are 2 basic types of paternity tests:

  • PCR: In this test a swab is used to collect a DNA sample from the inside of the cheek of the man and the child. Results take up to 1 week.
  • RFLP: This test needs a larger sample of DNA, from a blood test. Blood will be taken from the man and the child.

If the court orders a paternity test, the costs of DNA testing are usually shared between the mother and the alleged father. If paternity is established, the mother can ask for the full cost to be paid by the father. If you can’t afford this, you might be able to get legal aid to help pay for DNA testing.

Find out more about legal aid

A man can refuse to have a test, but the court can consider his refusal when examining the evidence.

Both the mother and the man, or other applicant, can ask the court to recommend that these tests be done.

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